“Churches that become passionate about people outside their walls will be far more effective than churches that are only passionate about keeping the few people they have inside their walls.”
~ Carey Nieuwhof
When I saw this quote come across my fb news feed recently, I couldn’t resist the impulse to yell “Yes!!!! That’s what I keep saying!” Many churches today are in crisis and in their fearfulness have seemed to turn inward as they ‘circle the wagons’ against the outside world. I don’t think it’s a ‘bad’ thing to want to make our regular attenders and our long time members feel ‘at home’ and ‘taken care of’, but I do think it is wrong when we let THAT be our purpose.
Church folks SHOULD take care of one another, but I think that our MAIN purpose should be to introduce Jesus Christ to those who don’t know Him personally. This may mean that we have to do some things that are not as familiar or comfortable to us as we would like. Maybe change up some of our hymns, and add some new contemporary music to our old favorites. It might mean that the pastor doesn’t always ‘preach’ but instead……sometimes leads a discussion or a teaching session where the congregation is encouraged and, in fact, expected to speak out and participate. This might mean that during fellowship time, your pastor and/or your leadership won’t have the time to sit with you and go over your ideas or your concerns because they are busy with someone new who just ‘tried us out’ this morning. This might mean that the bulletins list the words to the doxology (which we have sung a kazillion times and know by heart) and the overhead screen prompts us for every little thing (even though we’ve been doing it that way for ever and ever and just EVERYONE knows what comes next).
This may also mean that we adjust our budget thinking a bit. Our budget goal should not be to keep the building open and the salaries paid (but believe me, from someone who receives a salary from you that is important), our budget goal should also include spiritual growth and outreach. Sunday School, Bible Study and worship supplies should be just as important in our budget as the light bill. The mailings that go out to new people should be just as vital, if not more so, than those that go to our shut-ins. Our priorities in our budget should reflect who we are as a church.
In Acts, chapter 6 the disciples were hard at work building the early church when they were presented with an internal problem. As their church increased in number so did their needs and someone needed to organize things to be sure that everyone was taken care of. This internal administrative need was not taken lightly, but the disciples also realized that their main priority was to the ministry of the Word. They needed to keep their focus on preaching so they could reach and teach others. Spiritual leadership is serious business and must not be taken lightly and the disciples realized that. So how did they choose to handle their administration problem? They found some good qualified folks who were spiritually mature to deal with it. And then they let them deal with it while they went on building the church!
As your pastor, I have fallen into the trap of expecting myself to do it all. But that is just a recipe for disaster! I cannot and should not be expected to do everything; the work of the church should be spread out among its members. That’s how it worked in the early church. They took care of those within, but their ‘focus’ was in reaching others, witnessing to others, and because that was their focus, the Word of God spread like the ripples on lake. It starts out with a small splash and then goes wider and wider until it reaches the shore and there is nowhere else for it to go. Our ripple is far, far from shore, there are many more for us to reach before our work is done. We cannot stop our work of spreading the Word until everyone has been touched! And so we need others to step forward to help.
This is a time of crisis for many churches. Because it is, many of us have turned inward to protect and nurture ourselves. But if that is all we do as a church, take care of ourselves, then are we really the church that Christ intends us to be? As the Spiritual leader of this church, I struggle with this dilemma often. I hear your need to be fed and to feel comfortable, but I also feel the pressure of knowing that there are so many out there who have yet to be reached! How should our time and resources be divided? I and your leadership struggle with this daily.
I believe that friends are quiet angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly.
Acts 6:2 – “So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.’”
So the disciples chose 7, one of them being Stephen, to have the responsibility of taking care of the administration of the church so that they could go on with their responsibilities of prayer and ministry of the word. It is time for the spiritually mature among you to step up to help. We need you…without you, we cannot do the work that we have been called to do.
We also need to look at what we have declared as our mission for our church. If we truly believe that this is the mission we are called to… then THAT is where our priority lies. If we just put ourselves in God’s hands and do the mission we are called to, then what God plans…… whatever that may be…….. will come to pass.